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Did you know it only takes 3 ingredients to make caramel sauce?
Yes, that’s right. Sugar, Butter, and Heavy Cream are the only ingredients you need to make a buttery rich and velvety smooth caramel sauce with decadent robust flavor, a slight smokiness and a hint of salt.
I was thinking back to a blog post I wrote in 2014 about making caramel sauce for the first time. My first attempt at making this sauce was quite challenging. I had never used a candy thermometer before and as with anything, the whole process was rather intimidating.
I am a lot more experienced in the kitchen now than I was then, so I decided to revisit the caramel sauce recipe. Today, I have refreshed this old blog post to share with you. I have a lot more information to offer on how to make the caramel sauce. It really is not that hard to make when you know the steps.
I feel like this is the perfect time to reshare this recipe, especially with fall and the holiday season fast approaching. You can use this caramel sauce to finish just about any dessert you want. Top cheesecakes, pies, and cakes; pour it over ice cream; stir it into popcorn. Just imagine how good your fall apples will be dipped into it!
This recipe makes quite a bit of caramel sauce, but don’t worry you can refrigerate it for up to 3 to 4 weeks or you can even freeze it for later use.
To me, this sauce tastes much like a Werther’s Original candy. It’s so good! Caramel sauce tastes so much better when it is homemade. Let me show you how to make it!
What Is Caramel Sauce?
Basically, caramel is just melted sugar. Butter and cream are then added to turn the caramel into a sauce.
There are two methods in which you can make the caramel: the dry method and the wet method.
The Dry Method: Sugar is heated slowly until it melts.
The Wet Method: Sugar is dissolved in water, then boiled until the water evaporates.
There are tons of caramel sauce recipes out there. Some recipes call for brown sugar and/or corn syrup when making caramel You should never use brown sugar or corn syrup! Rich and nutty, caramel is a substance produced by cooking sugar until it breaks down. True caramel is made using granulated sugar. Brown sugar contains fructose and other organic compounds that will smoke and burn long before it could turn into a nutty amber-colored caramel.
The same goes for corn syrup. There is no obvious benefit to adding it, so it’s basically useless and an unnecessary ingredient.
Use a Digital Thermometer!
When you think about making candy you probably think about your grandma’s big metal candy thermometer clipped onto the side of a saucepan. That’s exactly what I used the first time I made this caramel sauce. I purchased a cheap analog candy thermometer from the store. It did a fairly decent job, but it was pretty tricky.
I do not recommend using an analog thermometer to make caramel or any type of candy. An analog thermometer is slow to come to temperature, which means that while you are waiting for the mercury to rise to the desired temperature, the candy could have already reached the desired temperature and risen past it! It also can fall out of calibration. Not to mention they are so hard to read!
I recommend getting a digital thermometer such as a Thermapen® digital thermometer by Thermoworks. A Thermapen is super fast and extremely accurate. This thermometer can read temperatures within 2 to 3 seconds, which sure beats the heck out of waiting for that mercury to rise on an analog one! The best part about using a digital thermometer is that you can get a better understanding of where the temperature is at throughout the entire mixture instead of reading the temperature in one place on the side of the saucepan.
If you are unsure about getting a Thermapen at least consider getting a ThermoPop®. The Thermopop digital thermometer also by Thermoworks is a little cheaper and it is ±2°F (1°C) accuracy which is still tight enough for candy work.
Both of these thermometers are awesome purchases and have endless uses in the kitchen!
Caramel Temperature References
340°F (170°C) – Light Brown Caramel
This is when the sugar liquefies and starts to turn brown due to caramelization. The sugar is just beginning to break down and the flavor becomes rich. This caramelized sugar is good for dessert decorations, like nuts.
345°F (174°C) – Medium Caramel
For spun sugar and sugar cages.
350°F (177°C) – Dark Caramel
THIS IS IDEAL! At this temperature, the caramel sauce the perfect coloring agent for sauces.
360°F to 375°F (182°C to 190°C) – Very Dark Caramel
The caramel darkens even further becoming a little bitter.
400°F to 410°F (204°C to 210°C) – Black Jack
The liquefied sugar turns black and decomposes beyond 410°F (210°C)
How to Make Caramel Sauce
IMPORTANT: Before you begin, read and understand this recipe all the way through. Also, measure out all of the ingredients and have each ready to go when needed.
Caramel is hotter than 40 hells! Be extra careful when preparing it. With temps up to 350 degrees, it can grab onto your skin and burn you. Use extreme caution when adding the butter and cream to the hot sugar. It’s almost like lava. Stand away from the stove keeping your face away from the pot and add the butter and cream very slowly.
I recommend using at least a 2 ½ quart saucepan or larger to ensure the saucepan is large enough to hold the caramel sauce. This allows plenty of room for the bubbling hot caramel and room to stir it. Also, you need to make sure your utensil is heat resistant enough to handle the job. Typically a wooden spoon, a silicone spatula or metal whisk is best.
Begin by heating the sugar in a medium saucepan, over medium heat; stirring often.
As the sugar heats up, it begins to clump together and starts to break down into a liquid. Keep stirring! This will break down any clumps.
At 340°F (170°C) the sugar is in a liquid form. Continue stirring and heat the liquified sugar until the temperature rises to 350 degrees F (177°C).
Once the liquefied sugar reaches 350 degrees F (177°C), carefully add the butter a few cubes at the time. BE CAREFUL! The mixture will hiss and splatter and act all kinds of cranky. Don’t worry, just keep stirring in the butter until it has melted completely.
Once the butter has melted, CAREFULLY add in the heavy cream. Stir the mixture and let it boil for 3 minutes.
Remove the caramel sauce from the heat, and let the caramel cool at least 15 minutes before pouring into a container.
After the caramel sauce has cooled a bit, use directly or pour it into a jar or microwave-safe airtight container.
Reheating Caramel Sauce:
Spoon out the desired amount of caramel into a bowl or remove the lid from the jar or container. Heat the sauce in a microwave oven, on high-heat for 15-second intervals, until the caramel becomes warm and thin. Pour, drizzle, coat and dip the caramel sauce, as desired.
Storing Caramel Sauce:
Store the caramel sauce in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 weeks.
You can also pour the caramel sauce into a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3-months.
To use the caramel sauce from the freezer, defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Salted Caramel Sauce:
If you love salted caramel, you can sprinkle extra salt on top of your caramel sauce creations as a garnish or for desired taste. I recommend kosher, fleur de sel, Himalayan Pink or sea salt for serving.
It’s important to remember, you can always add but you can never take it away, so add a little until you get the desired amount.
Uses For Caramel Sauce:
- Ice Cream
- Cinnamon rolls
- Fruits: apples, peaches, bananas
- Breakfast: pancakes, French toast, waffles
- Caramel also makes a great gift! Pour it into a fancy jar and tie a bow around the lid. Viola!
I hope you enjoy making this caramel sauce and have tons of fun using it!
What will you put it on? Comment below!
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks) diced into ½-inch cubes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Begin by heating the sugar in a medium saucepan, over medium heat; stirring often.As the sugar heats up, it begins to clump together and starts to break down into a liquid. Keep stirring! This will break down any clumps.
- At 340°F (170°C) the sugar is in a liquid form. Continue stirring and heat the liquified sugar until the temperature rises to 350 degrees F (177°C).
- Once the liquefied sugar reaches 350 degrees F (177°C), carefully add the butter a few cubes at the time. BE CAREFUL! The mixture will hiss and splatter and act all kinds of cranky. Don’t worry, just keep stirring in the butter until it has melted completely.
- Once the butter has melted, CAREFULLY add in the heavy cream. Stir the mixture and let it boil for 3 minutes.
- Remove the caramel sauce from the heat, and let the caramel cool at least 15 minutes before pouring into a container.
- After the caramel sauce has cooled a bit, use directly or pour it into a jar or microwave-safe airtight container.